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‘Overdue At Bpl? Call To Make Payment Plan’

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister.

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister.

By LEANDRA ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

lrolle@tribunemedia.net

WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister has urged Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) customers with overdue accounts to contact the electricity provider to work out payment plans.

As he responded to complaints of continued disconnections of accounts amid hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Bannister said BPL is open to negotiating and agreeing with customers on payment plans.

He said BPL was aware of the circumstances and insisted officials were empathetic to the plight of customers.

The minister made the appeal during an interview with reporters yesterday outside Cabinet, where he underscored that in good times BPL has a minimum of $90m owed to it each month.

“It’s very important if people are concerned about that for them to contact BPL,” he said.

“They have the same amount of empathy for anybody who has a challenge. They’re going to work with Bahamian people so if there’s been a challenge – contact BPL.

“BPL has special instructions especially as it relates to the people who are threatened or have been disconnected. They don’t want to see anybody off. BPL doesn’t make any money when you’re disconnected. All they want is to have agreements in place so that the revenue could come in and that’s important. I want people to appreciate that. Every month, BPL has to buy fuel, every single month.”

“They have to keep power on for the rest of us and so they have to be able to put financial agreements in place for people who haven’t been able to pay. That’s all they want. They are just like the rest of us. They have a tremendous amount of empathy and I would urge anyone who has a challenge to contact us.”

In March, BPL halted disconnections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, with the company initially saying it would suspend disconnections as long as the government maintained the COVID-19 emergency orders.

However, the government-owned utility later resumed disconnections after it had announced in July that it would discontinue electricity services of customers who were $500 or more in arrears, and 90 days past due, prior to April 1.

Last month, a BPL official revealed to The Tribune the company had turned off 8,741 residential accounts in New Providence and the Family Islands since July.

However, a few days later it backtracked on the previous statement saying the actual number of disconnections stood at 3,011 as of October 23 as a large number of customers had been reconnected.

Yesterday, Mr Bannister urged all BPL customers who have the funds available to make the payments to the power provider. He added BPL cannot continue to “exist” if households and businesses fail to pay their monthly bills as the company has financial obligations like everyone else.

“I think it’s important for all of us to understand, as I said before that the government, BPL can’t go to the public treasury and say I need $10m or I need $20m this month for fuel,” he said.

“They have to buy fuel. They have to pay their staff. They have to continue to exist. The only way they’re going to exist is if they have some revenue in and every time, I say something about disconnecting, people who can pay decide that they’re not going to pay.”

“It’s important that if you can pay that you go out and pay and that’s the only way that this entity is going to continue to exist. We need everybody who can pay to be responsible and pay and then the company can exist. If BPL don’t get some money in they cannot keep the generations going.”

Asked yesterday about BPL’s arrears, the minister replied: “You know in good times BPL has $90m each month in arrears. Ninety million to 100 million in good times and BPL doesn’t put on any surcharges when you pay late.

“They don’t do that and so people push it, but it’s important for us not to push it and it’s important for all of us to pay,” Mr Bannister said.

Comments

tribanon 11 months, 1 week ago

Mr Bannister urged all BPL customers who have the funds available to make the payments to the power provider.

The very useless Desmond Bannister never ceases to amaze me with his stupidity.

Why should any Bahamian who can afford pay their BPL bills do so in order to help enable this corrupt Minnis-led administration to continue giving free electricity to others in exchange for their vote come election time? I would much prefer BPL go belly up and all Bahamians go without electricity.

Besides, thanks to the very daft Mr. Bannister, many of us have learned how to about getting free electricity from BPL for our home or business by being put on his personally authorised 'do not disconnect' list. LOL

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concerned799 11 months, 1 week ago

If customers have the knowledge they can just eternally "work out a payment plan" that pays less than 100% owed, does this not destroy the logic of why anyone would pay their bill?

With the notion/fiction that BPL was now run seperate of the government now out of the window given that disconnections were suspended earlier this year, is not the only path to saving a sound and solvent BPL to privatize it so people know they must pay for electrical service?

Sorry for sounding harsh here, but an insolvent and failed BPL just is not a viable route for this nation to be on. At a certain point the state can not borrow infinite amounts.

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John 11 months, 1 week ago

BPL must be patient (but not stupid). More people are starting to go back to work and, hopefully, they have listed payment if their BPL bills and other utilities, among their priorities. And full and complete payment will not be instantaneous as many people and families will be digging themselves out of a deep financial hole of which they had little or no involvement in digging. So BPL must allow another six to nine months for consumers to catch up. Nothing like starting to work and starting to pay and coming home from work and meeting your house in darkness. But yes, it is also the consumers responsibility to go in and tell BPL what the situation is and also what their plans are to pay their bills.

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tribanon 11 months, 1 week ago

@John: You are clearly clueless about the moral hazard Minnis and Bannister have together created for BPL. The solvency of BPL is very much contingent on all consumers of electricity paying their bills as and when they fall due, and not just when they feel like making the smallest possible 'donation' to BPL in order to avoid being disconnected. And the unfairness associated with the secret 'do not disconnect list' kept with Bannisters approval by senior management and the board must be done away with.

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ted4bz 11 months, 1 week ago

Stop turning of the power every time there is a rain storm.

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